War of the Human Tanks is a game that can be divided into two parts. The first is obviously the gameplay which is like an anime version of the board game Battleship. The second is the narrative segments which basically are an anime. A very, very bad anime. One of those things simply doesn’t work very well and the other is completely incomprehensible and vaguely terrifying. They both swirl together in a whirlpool of anti-synergy that makes for an altogether uncompelling experience. I feel bummed ragging on War of The Human Tanks because it is clearly a labour of love. It’s just an incredibly misguided labor of love that made me feel awkward every second I played it.
The narrative segments of War of the Human Tanks are the part that I found completely incomprehensible and vaguely terrifying. The story follows a commander of a unit of the titular human tanks as he fights against the overwhelming rival faction that is vying for control of “Japon”. Human tanks are basically robots or androids who can talk and have weird swirly eyes that serve as their only distinguishing mark from humans. The human tanks are treated by humans as pure weaponry, no consideration given to their feelings, etc, etc. You’ve heard the story before I’m sure and not at all subtle hints are dropped constantly that the human tanks have feelings, emotions and elements of humanity. That’s ok, I can deal with that, it might be cliché but it worked for Bladerunner. But why do all the human tanks have to look like little girls?
Seriously, why do all the human tanks have to look like little girls? Why do they have to make incredibly weird little-japanese-girl warbles when they blow up? I honestly could not play this game with any one looking over my shoulder at what I was doing. So there’s the inherent creepiness that pervades all of War of the Human Tanks. It’s inescapable and something I couldn’t get over the entire time I played.
There are also horrible, glaring issues with the way the story is told. Very weirdly photoshopped images serve as a background for anime characters who ramble through baffling inane dirges of dialogue. This happens for an inordinate amount of time before and after each mission. Literally 10 minutes a piece, which mercifully can be skipped completely at will. There’s even the inclusion of the same opening j-pop song every mission as well as rolling credits…every.damn.mission. I could not for the life of me work out what was going on most of the time. Characters constantly refer to other characters inappropriately watching anime or stopping for ice-cream on the way to battle. As an already confusing offering this need to pump irreverent quips at every possible moment is nothing short of infuriating. I get that the game was trying to go for a slightly lighter, wacky tone but if there was ever an example for the need of an editor this is it.
Now to the gameplay. Does Battleship meets Advance Wars sound good to you? I know half of that proposition sounds like a decent idea to base a game around, the other half is a retarded board game that wouldn’t work at all. War of the Human Tanks is paradoxically a real-time turn based game. A better way of describing it would be applying the Final Fantasy active time battle system to a turn based strategy game. That is the part I like because it adds a little bit of tension and action to the normal plodding pace of turn based strategy. What I don’t like is the game’s core gameplay mechanic of all the tiles being “unknown” unless they are in exact visual range or recently “reconned” by one of your units. I guess this by itself isn’t so bad, but add to it the face that the majority of units all die in one shot from an enemy combatant. So it’s basically Battleship but with different units.
Some units have a larger recon or firing range and some can move further or have different forms of attacks but basically it’s a game of hide and seek. You can develop your tanks so they increase their ranges of sight and attack as well as develop brand new units that also increase this. I just don’t think that the Battleship gameplay is a very sound mechanic to base a whole turn based strategy game around as it makes it far too semi-random and reliant on dumb luck.
I certainly didn’t like War of the Human Tanks. It’s creepy/cutesy presentation got us off on the wrong foot and the gameplay was far too misguided to recover any lost ground. If you have a stronger stomach for Anime than me and a bizarre longing to a play a Battleship-like you may get some enjoyment out of it. It’s getting a 2/5 for effort.